Montclair State University announced merger plans with Bloomfield College on Oct. 26, 2022. This raised a series of questions from faculty, staff and students. As the date of the merger approaches, there are still many concerns and unanswered questions.
Throughout the 2022-2023 academic year, Bloomfield and Montclair State have been working independently but in close collaboration with each other. The merger is projected to be finalized by June 30, 2023, or earlier.
“[Bloomfield] is the only New Jersey institution to be recognized as a Predominantly Black Institution (PBI) and Hispanic Serving Institution, and is also a Minority Serving Institution,” according to Bloomfield’s website.
These core values reflect in the student body and are vital to the atmosphere of the school. Merging with Montclair State proposes the possibility of a major shift in these values.
Marcheta Evans, president of Bloomfield, feels great pride working at a minority-serving institution. Throughout her career, she has served in many transformational leadership roles. Recently under her presidency, the college was nationally ranked #18 in the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges listing of Top Performers on Social Mobility.
Evans shared her enthusiasm and confidence in the upcoming merger.
“Bloomfield College of Montclair State University will support and serve our current and future students by providing a transformative educational experience with access to the university’s abundant resources,” Evans said in a Montclair State press release.
Although Evans feels excited, other university staff have expressed differing opinions. Many have expressed concerns regarding upholding the integrity of the college’s core values. Many students and professors have questioned how the cultures of the two institutions have combined.
James Murphy is a division chair and biology professor at Bloomfield, as well as the faculty union president. When he initially received news of the merger, he was concerned about upholding Bloomfield’s pristine traits. He worries that the staggering income gap between Montclair State and Bloomfield students could have a negative effect on their college’s mission. He does not want Bloomfield’s mission to be forgotten or glossed over.
“Even though the institutions are five miles apart, the student bodies they are serving are quite different,” Murphy said. “We were questioning if [the merger] would turn into a mere real estate transaction.”
Andrew Mees, university spokesperson for Montclair State, said that Bloomfield’s and Montclair State’s missions align with one another.
“Bloomfield’s mission is shared by Montclair State University,” Mees said. “Both are minority serving institutions with expertise in delivering accessible, life-changing educational opportunities for all students, including those from minority and low-income backgrounds.”
Mees said that by partnering with Montclair State, Bloomfield can accomplish its mission in an easier way.
“Bloomfield College’s mission will not change when it becomes part of Montclair State University, but how it is delivered will evolve to a more sustainable model, one that takes full advantage of the economies of scope and scale that can be gained by becoming part of a larger enterprise,” Mees said.
The average household income is not the only difference between these institutions. The average class size at Montclair is 25, while the average Bloomfield class size is 13. Additionally, Bloomfield awards an average of four credits per class as opposed to Montclair State’s three credits. Bloomfield College has had a historically different curriculum than Montclair State.
“Bloomfield aims to achieve learning outcomes in fewer courses, and the curriculum is stripped down to its essentials,” Murphy said.
With the new model, professors are worried that many Bloomfield students will be forced to adapt to Montclair State’s policies. On the other hand, this could challenge or change Montclair State’s current way of education.
With the merger, 10 staff members at Bloomfield College were let go of their jobs. Montclair State wanted to avoid duplication in certain departments. Six of the 10 people let go had taught in the science department.
This is a major concern for the faculty and staff at Bloomfield. Murphy explained the impact that this has and what it might mean for the future.
“Those were folks that were helping run our current mission in effect,” Murphy said. “That was quite shocking and very sad, and it suggests that administrators have something new in mind.”
Mees stressed that the merger is saving most of the professors’ jobs, and that this approach would be beneficial in the long run.
“It is not realistic to assume that employment would continue for all current Bloomfield College employees, given that the College’s current business model has proven to be unsustainable,” Mees said. “Montclair’s hiring decisions were made with the goal of creating a more sustainable model.”
Despite the differences in the culture of Montclair State and Bloomfield, many are excited to see what comes from the merge. The next few years may be filled with tumult, but students from both universities will be able to gain new experiences while adjusting to new atmospheres.
“Something had to be done and I was pretty happy it was Montclair [State] that stepped up,” a Bloomfield professor, who is remaining anonymous to protect their job status, said. “Our mission is to help disadvantaged kids get into college and be successful, and people have been very clear that they want to keep that.”